HSSC-Led Electronic Health Records Adoption Ahead of Schedule

November 21, 2011

As physician offices across the nation adopt electronic health record (EHR) systems to comply with federal standards, South Carolina is ahead of the curve thanks to the success of an HSSC initiative.

That initiative is a regional extension center program called CITIA-SC (short for the Center for Information Technology Implementation Assistance in South Carolina). CITIA-SC is helping the state’s primary care practices select certified EHR products, implement systems, and train staff so that each practice and its patients get the maximum benefit in terms of improved care, safety and efficiency.

CITIA-SC is funded by a $6.4 million grant Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) received from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant comes from federal funds allocated to lay the groundwork for a nationwide electronic health information system.

HSSC spearheads CITIA-SC. Its partners in the effort include the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence, South Carolina Office of Rural Health, South Carolina Primary Health Care Association, South Carolina Hospital Association, South Carolina Office of Research and Statistics, Clemson University, South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, AccessHealthSC, South Carolina Area Health Education Consortium, South Carolina Technical College System, and numerous physician and health systems.

So far, CITIA-SC’s work has helped South Carolina make great strides in EHR adoption based of standards defined by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology.

“South Carolina is a leader nationally in EHR adoption among physicians,” explains HSSC Senior Program Manager Todd Thornburg. “We are 18 months into our efforts and already are approaching our two-year goals.”

Thornburg notes that CITIA-SC’s work focuses not only on encouraging physicians to adopt EHRs, but also on meaningful use. The term “meaningful use” indicates that a physician is using health IT to improve the quality and safety of health services, deliver care in an efficient manner and reduce health disparities. Encouraging meaningful use of EHRs will be a primary focus of CITIA-SC’s work in the months ahead.

Because South Carolina is a leading in EHR adoption, physicians in the state are reaping financial benefits at an accelerated pace. Physicians and other eligible professionals can qualify for incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid, which can help offset the investment of moving to an EHR system. As of November 2011, $4.6. Million has been paid out by the SOuth Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to providers registered with the CITIA-SC program.

“The tide is turning,” says HSSC President and CEO Jay Moskowitz. “As more physicians in South Carolina put an electronic framework in place, they are realizing long-term improvements in quality of care, patient safety, efficiency, and health costs. Part of our goal with HSSC’s CITIA-SC initiative is to make the transition from paper-based medical records to EHRs as seamless as possible in our state. We are extremely pleased with the early success.”

In addition to its work with physicians, CITIA-SC also is helping develop health IT solutions that will benefit all of South Carolina. As part of one recent project, CITIA-SC has contracted with HalfPenny, a technology company headquartered near Philadelphia. Together, the groups are working to develop a solution, known as a Lab Hub, that will connect labs across the state with physician EHRs. since about 60 to 70 percent of all critical care patient decisions are affected by lab results, the Lab Hub can have a major impact on patient care in South Carolina.